What does it look like?

We've written these stories to show you how scammers trick people. They describe common tactics we know scammers use, based on insights from our fraud and scams team.

The house purchase scam

Heidi was buying a house. Her solicitor was very helpful, and had been keeping her updated by email. They'd recently sent her an invoice for search fees, which she'd paid by bank transfer.

Heidi got a new email from the solicitor, saying it was time to pay her deposit. They said they used different accounts for deposits and fees, and gave new payment details for her to use. Everything seemed normal, and the email was from the same address as their other emails.

She transferred the money online. The name on the account didn't match the solicitor's name, but she thought it was because they used different accounts for different types of payment.

A week later, Heidi received another email from her solicitor asking her to pay the deposit.  When she called them to check what was happening, they didn't know anything about the first email, and they didn’t have her money.

What's the scam?

The first email about the deposit was from a scammer pretending to be Heidi's solicitor – they'd faked the email address to make it more convincing. When she used the bank details from the email, Heidi was sending her money to the scammer, not her solicitor.

The safe account scam

Jeff got a text message from a delivery company. It said they'd tried to deliver a parcel but nobody had been in, and there was a link to choose a new delivery date.

Jeff clicked the link, and entered his address to confirm the parcel was his. The website said there was a small fee to pay for arranging a new delivery. Jeff chose his new date, and used his card to pay the fee.

Three days later, Jeff got a call from his bank. They could see the small fee payment he'd made earlier in the week and wanted to warn him that this was part of a common scam, where fraudsters send a fake text message designed to steal your details, then use them to get access to your bank account.

The caller said that because Jeff had entered his details, his bank account was at risk and he needed to transfer all his money to a safe account. Jeff agreed he wanted to protect his money, so the caller gave him the safe account details, and helped him with the transfer. They said they'd call back in a few days with an update, then ended the call.

They didn’t call back, and when Jeff contacted his bank for an update, they told him they hadn't called him and would never ask anyone to move money into a safe account. Jeff had sent his money to a scammer.

What's the scam?

The text message and the phone call were both from a scammer – they sent the message to get Jeff to enter his details, then called pretending to be the bank to scare him into thinking his account was at risk. Jeff knew he'd entered his details on a website, so he was convinced by the call. He thought he was transferring his money to a safe account with the bank, but he’d sent it to the scammer.